Roger Corman filmography and biography
Date of birth: 5 April 1926, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Roger Corman biography
Roger William Corman was born April 5, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan.
Initially following in his father's footsteps, Corman studied
engineering at Stanford, but, while in school, he began to lose
interest in the profession, and developed a growing interest in
filmmaking. Upon graduation, he worked a total of three days as an
engineer (at U.S. Electrical Motors), which cemented his growing
realization that engineering wasn't for him. He quit and took a job as
a messenger for 20th-Century Fox, eventually rising to the position of
After a term spent studying modern English literature at Oxford and a year spent bopping around Europe, Corman returned to the U.S. intent on becoming a screenwriter/producer. He sold his first script in 1953, "The House in the Sea," which was eventually filmed and released as Highway Dragnet.
Horrified by the distance between his vision for the film and the final product, Corman took his pay from the picture, scraped together a little capital, and set himself up as a producer, turning out Monster from the Ocean Floor. Corman used his next picture, the original version of The Fast and the Furious, to finagle a multi-picture deal with a fledgling company called American Releasing. It would soon change its name to American International Pictures (AIP), and, with Corman as its major talent behind the camera, become one of the most successful independent studios in cinema history.
With no formal training, Corman first took to the director's chair with Five Guns West, and, over the next 15 years, he directed 53 films, mostly for AIP. Corman proved himself a master of quick, cheap productions, turning out several movies as director and/or producer in each of those years--nine movies in 1957, then again in 1958. His personal speed record was set with the original version of The Little Shop of Horrors, which he shot in two days and a night.
In the early 1960s, he began to take on more ambitious projects, gaining a great deal of critical praise (and commercial success) from a series of adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe (I) stories, most of them starring Vincent Price (I). His film The Intruder was a serious look at racial integration in the South, starring a very young William Shatner. Critically praised, and winning a prize at the Venice Film Festival, the movie became Corman's first commercial flop. Corman called its failure "the greatest disappointment in my career." As a consequence of the experience, Corman opted to avoid such direct "message" films in the future, and resolved to express his social and political concerns beneath the surface of overt entertainments.
Those messages became more radical as the '60s wound to a close, and, after AIP began re-editing his films without his knowledge or consent, he left the company, retiring from directing to concentrate on production and distribution through his own newly-formed company New World Pictures. In addition to low-budget exploitation flicks, New World dealt in distinguished art cinema from around the world, becoming the American distributor for the films of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, FranÃ§ois Truffaut, and others. Selling off New World in the '80s, Corman has continued his work through various companies in the years since--Concorde Pictures, New Horizons, Millenium Pictures, New Concorde. In 1990, after the publication of his biography ("How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime," one of the all-time great books on filmmaking), he returned to directing, but only for a single film, Frankenstein Unbound
With hundreds of movies to his credit, Corman is one of the most prolific producers the film medium has ever produced, and one of the most successful--in his nearly-six-decades in the business, only about a dozen of his films have failed to turn a profit. Corman has been dubbed "The King of the Cult Film" and "The Pope of Pop Cinema," and his filmography is packed with hundreds of remarkably entertaining films, dozens of genuine cult classics. Corman has displayed an unrivaled eye for talent over the years--it could almost be said that it would be easier to name the top directors, actors, writers, creators in Hollywood who didn't get their start with Corman than those who did. Among those he mentored are Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson (I), James Cameron (I), Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante (I) and Sandra Bullock. His influence on modern American cinema is almost incalculable. In 2009, he was honored with an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Roger Corman trivia
- Brother of producer Gene Corman, father of Catherine Corman.
- (2001) Tribute in the Memory of Film section at the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium.
- In the early years of the American Releasing Corporation (later American International Pictures), he became one of their major sources of product for distribution. He would be given a sum of money and an advertising campaign (or somethimes just a title) and he would have to come up with the scripts and produce the films.
- If he had to shoot a film on location, he would always try to shoot a second film at that same location in order to spread out the costs.
- In the new decade of the 1960s, he decided that he wanted to do something that would advance his career. When American International offered him a sum of money to create another one of their low-budget black-and-white double features, he countered with an offer to use the same money to shoot a single feature in color and Cinemascope. American International finally agreed to this offer. It led to the production of House of Usher. The gamble paid off and the film became a box-office hit and generated something that was unusual for an AIP release - critical praise. This was followed by what became known as Corman's "Poe series.".
- A running gag in Hollywood was that Corman could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the booth, and finance it with the money in the change slot.
- Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 234-242. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
- His film The Little Shop of Horrors set a world's record for the shortest shooting schedule for a feature film...Two days!.
- Frequently has cameos or bit parts in the films of many successful filmmakers who got their start working for him, such as Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante (I) and Francis Ford Coppola.
- In Attack of the Bat Monsters, the character Francis Gordon, as played by Fred Ballard (I), is "noticeably patterned" after him.
- Did a brief stint of study at Oxford University.
- Society of Operating Cameramen (SOC) Recipient, Governors Award (CAMMY) (2004).
- Uncle of Todd Corman.
- Corman, as a director and/or producer, is credited with starting and/or mentoring the careers of many now-famous film directors, such as Jonathan Demme, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard (I), John Sayles, James Cameron (I), Joe Dante (I), and Martin Scorsese, and writers such as Robert Towne, and John Sayles. He also discovered/gave early roles to then-unknown actors and actresses such as Jack Nicholson (I), Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Diane Ladd, and Sandra Bullock.
- Discusses his movie House of Usher in the book "A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde" (McFarland & Co., 2010) by Tom Weaver.
- An indication of Corman's influence in Hollywood: Though no Roger Corman-produced movies were up for Oscars at the 1974 Academy Awards, nearly every major category featured wins or nominations by "Corman School" graduates - those whom Corman had either started in the business or mentored early in their careers.
- Although his films were notable for the flair and mobility with which he composed for wide-screen, Corman revealed in Cinema Retro magazine (Issue #18) that he hadn't originally wanted to shoot his cult Poe series in Panavision. "I thought the anamorphic lens was better suited to westerns, whereas I was shooting in these contained little sets. But that was a decision made by AIP (American International Pictures). They were convinced that just using that lens would not only make the pictures look bigger but sound bigger in the ads".
Roger Corman quotes
- "In science-fiction films the monster should always be bigger than the leading lady."
- "I think there is always a political undercurrent in my films. With the exception of "The Intruder," I tried not to put it on the surface."
- "All my films have been concerned simply with man as a social animal."
- "I've never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens, it never turns out exactly as I hoped."